Objection Prevention Trumps Objection Handling in Securing Appointments
I have more clients tell me if they could only get their salespeople to secure more appointments, it would greatly increase their company’s performance. Usually it isn’t for any lack of effort, or if it is, it is because their hit rate is so abysmal; they just gave up on trying. The problem is most salespeople aren’t properly prepared and trained on how to handle common objections and stalls like “send me some information”; “I’m too busy to meet”; or “call me back in 1 month to set up a meeting”. Too often they try to sell the benefits of their product or service hoping to entice prospects to change their mind. Unfortunately, that usually isn’t the real issue. The real issue is they want them to send information because they aren’t interested at all or it is such a low priority for them it is only worth the impersonal and less time-consuming contact of email or snail mail. Most salespeople end up addressing the symptoms of sending information but not the real issues revolving around it. That’s why it’s trying and discouraging to nail down appointments.
The following are examples of questions and statements that attempt to isolate the real issues. Even when the following examples fail you, and they most assuredly will, they allow you a much better snapshot of how open and reasonable your prospect is. Half the battle of securing appointments is separating those who are willing and open to having dialogue versus those who aren’t willing to be engaged and can’t reasonably be converted. Keep in mind 95% of requests for literature is a total waste of your time.
- “I’d be more than happy to send you some information but I’m sure you can appreciate and understand that we are in the business of trust and confidence and if we are going to have any meaningful conversation or exchange of ideas, then we are going to need to meet. Does that sound fair and reasonable? I’m not coming in with any expectation of you changing. But I do want to meet you, shake your hand and find out if we could even be of help in the future.”
- “Let me be very upfront with you. We do a lot of business with a lot of companies. We are also in the fortunate position that 95% of our business is with existing customers and referrals. I may not be able to help you, but I have found over the years in our business that it is critical for me to work very hard upfront to determine those who I can help and those who I can’t. Those who I can help usually become long-term customers instead of one time deals because I’ve spent the time to learn about their business and their needs and then tailor a solution to fit their situation instead of trying to persuade them that what I have is what they need. So before we do anything like send you generic information, I need to believe I can help you and, most importantly, if you even need my help. And the only meaningful way to accomplish that is meeting personally. How does that sit with you?”
- “It sounds like you are uncomfortable in meeting with me. I can certainly understand. Do you mind if I ask, do you have a standing policy of not meeting with salespeople until they’ve sent you literature or do you have a policy of not meeting with salespeople on matters that are a low priority and of very little importance to you based on other more pressing initiatives?”
The following question is good to ask to confirm that even if you did send the information as requested, your prospect most likely has little interest in further dialogue:
- “If you were me selling you, would you follow up diligently after you sent the information or is your interest just passive and casual?”
I’m Too Busy
The prospect’s next favorite objection is, “I’m too busy to meet you”. Keep in mind, time is never the real issue, the real issue is you are not worth the time and more often than not based on their priorities, it is a legitimate objection. Therefore, try to isolate the real issue. Also make “no” an accessible answer so that you can further pinpoint whether they are being genuine and sincere in their intentions.
- “Like you, my time is also very valuable. As a matter of fact, it is my most important asset. Prospecting represents only 10% of my time, so when I do it I must be certain I spend my time judiciously with qualified prospects. Let me share with you what, in my world, a prospect looks like and if you don’t fit that description, I will graciously get out of your way. They are open-minded to the idea that their people could improve their skills because it is important for their company to maintain a competitive edge to continue growing. And most importantly, because this is a priority they are willing to meet with someone like myself, with the understanding and expectation that it might not go any further than an introductory meeting.”
- “I know you are busy and I appreciate that and I hear that a lot. If I thought you had the time to meet with me, I’d have a minor seizure. The irony of our business is if you had the time you probably wouldn’t be a very good prospect. I work with a lot of successful people like yourself who are very busy and I work with their schedules to find some holes in it. What holes can we find in your schedule?”
- “I may be sticking my neck out here, it probably isn’t that you don’t have the time, the real concern and issue is that you probably aren’t convinced that I am worth the time and I may not be.”
- “Are you busy very minute of the day, every week every month? Do you eat lunch? Take a coffee break? Can we meet before your day or after it?”
Call me back in the Future
You’ll also run into “call me back in 1 month and I’ll meet with you then”, or some equivalent. A good strategy to employ here is bringing the future to the present. If they don’t have a compelling reason to meet now, why will it change in one month?
- “I’d be more than happy to call you back in 2 months. So that I respect your time, what will change in 2 months time where it will be worth your time to meet with me?”
- “I’d be happy to. Let me ask you a stupid question: when I call, will you take my call and if you are busy and not available, will you give me the courtesy of a return call? You are sure?”
- “Why don’t you get out your calendar and let us set up something for that time. I sense if now isn’t a good time then in 2 months it might also not be, due to your busy schedule. With all due respect, if you are unwilling to make this appointment, it might be because you’ve decided to get it over with now.”
Most objections are a symptom of another issue. Your goal is not necessarily to answer and address the objection, since you’ll be answering, more than likely, a symptom. What you need to do is isolate and identify the real reason. Taking a relaxed and nonconfrontational posture is the most effective way in making your prospect feel non-threatened and respected. Your goal in dealing with objections is twofold: firstly, identify the authenticity of the objection; and secondly, determine the probability of overcoming it. By doing so, you increase the chances of your prospect answering and resolving their own issues and objections. Let them do some of the hard work.